How to be productive using the kaizen method
What does kaizen mean
Kaizen (kai-Zen) translates to change, good, meaning change for good or improvement, in business terms kaizen means continuous improvement, this is done by eliminating time wasters and becoming more efficient.
Where does the kaizen method come from
Kaizen is a Japanese word which became popular after world War 2 when Japan’s financial situation was at it’s worst and they needed to work together and rebuild their economy. this small-step improvement approach (kaizen) was developed in the USA and the processes was brought to Japan.
What are the aims of kaizen
The aim of kaizen is to have incremental continuous improvement towards excellence not a goal as that would suggest that there is an ending or a result, whereas people who use the kaizen method are always looking for opportunities where time wasting can be reduced and efficiency can be increased. When we think of self improvement, we often think of this big, bold and brash technique that can magically cure us of whatever problem we have, the idea that we can go from nothing to something, although this is very appealing it can sometimes be a bit daunting and we are often bombarded with “WATCH THIS NEW SUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC WAY OF BECOMING A PERFECT HUMAN BEING” that one trick can solve the whole problem, We’ve got to do this and that and this and that, never actually completing any of them, this was best explained to me by an analogy of a mountain and the peak being success, we’re told that we should just work harder, just keep reaching up that steep mountain, often resulting in us slipping back down to the bottom where we began, on the other hand we can follow the kaizen route up the mountain where there is a winding road with a minimal and pleasant incline, that’s not even noticeable until you look back and see how far you’ve come after you’ve reached the summit. Kaizen aims to break down that larger task to more manageable targets.
How to practice kaizen
The six steps of kaizen
Kaizen can be broken down into a system of smaller tasks where we can continuously improve these six steps of kaizen are:
- Discover improvement potential: kaizen focuses on limiting time wasting and increasing efficiency in productivity, so to start this we should look for opportunities where there is a problem or deficiency in our productivity where we can improve.
- Analyze the current methods: look for what strategies are in place already
- Generate original ideas: think of an idea that will help with step number one of reducing waste and increasing productivity
- Develop an implementation plan: using your new idea look for ways in which you can implement it into your task
- Implement the plan: carry out your task with the new idea being slowly implemented in to it
- Evaluate the new method: evaluate what you have noticed throughout conducting the task, look for pros and cons and look for any further ways you can improve it see if there is any ways you can eliminate time wasting.
Where is kaizen used
Kaizen was used to help revolutionize the industrial world of japan, not only does kaizen aim to reduce time wasting and help productivity, it also humanizes a workplace, eliminates overly hard work and teaches people to experiment and look for ways they can become more efficient either by the process or themselves. Kaizen events also known as blitz are for everyone in the workplace, from CEO’s to the janitor, it is a collective effort to one focus. Kaizen has been used in all sorts of businesses from psychotherapy to banking, from life coaching to healthcare, but most popular Toyota! Toyota is a figure head for kaizen, there whole philosophy is to improve productivity and increase customer satisfaction whether it be their morning stretches or car sharing. This philosophy is used through out the production process at Toyota. According to the top gear episode workers at Toyota are encouraged to think of two kaizens (ways to eliminate waste and/or increase efficiency) per month. One kaizen at the Toyota firm is said to save 6.3 seconds per car this may sound small but overtime and with many other kaizens this builds up so quickly and makes a great impact.
So why am I telling you about some old Japanese philosophy you might be wondering, well as I was learning about it, I thought what a good way of implementing self improvement into our life!
How to implement kaizen into your life
I think as human beings we have a natural desire to improve, we want to be better than our previous self, and that’s great but sometimes we have so much going on in our life and then we try and start ten new habits and get rid of bad ones all at the same time. We’ve been brought up thinking that the only way to achieve success is the “American dream” way, where we have nothing and work so hard and hope that we make it to the top, don’t get me wrong I’m all about hard work, I think we need a bit of struggle in our life, but I think we need to mix the hard work with smart work, I heard an analogy once about two men cutting down a different tree, the first man was hacking away at the tree but his axe was blunt, so it took him an hour whereas the second man realized his axe was blunt so after 20 minutes of work he sharpened it and although this took him 5 minutes it only took him another 5 minutes to chop the whole tree down adding up to 30 minutes total which is half the time of the first guy! I recently uploaded a picture like this on our Instagram about meditation, people say that they don’t have enough time to meditate but meditating helps us have a clear mind which allows us to Get things done quicker. These are forms of smart work, taking time out to re-evaluate with the long-term goal in mind! Just think if you improved by just by 1% every day it would only take 100 days until you reach 100%. For example Imagine you want to be more productive in your office, go through the 6 steps of kaizen and try to implement it in, you notice that when you want to print something you have to walk up the stairs to the printer just to get the important document you need for tomorrow so instead you’ve realized this and you bring the printer downstairs so you don’t have to keep making the long journey, evaluate the change to see if you can improve it in any way and if not that’s great find something else to improve on. Someone who masters the art of kaizen is known as a zenkai who is said to not even waste a single drop of water!
Do you want to become a zenkai? Well our challenge to you is to try and come up with one kaizen per month that you can work on thoroughly.